Covid-19 and the Hanukkah Miracle

The call came in at exactly ten thirty in the morning and it caused Jack Morganthau tremendous anxiety. He was in the middle of a presentation about taking a company public and if the financial people liked what he was saying it would change his life. He had been preparing for the meeting for months and it had taken him weeks to assemble the group in front of him.

Due to the pandemic the meeting was on Zoom but Jack was now distracted. He didn’t know how he was going to tell the money people he had to take a break to talk to his Mom, but he did. ‘’I’m going to put up some documents on the screen for you all to look at. I’m sorry but my Mother is elderly and she just called, She lives at home alone, so when she calls I have to take it. I am sorry. I shouldn’t be long.’’

Before he could say another word Wyatt Eastland spoke up. ‘’I’ve heard enough, I don’t need to see any documents. I will let you know if my company wants to participate in the listing.’’ He then pushed leave the meeting and he was gone. Other people on the call mimicked his comments and they were gone. The last person, Edith Gordon looked very serious. ‘’I find it admirable your taking your Mom’s call. I know how important this meeting was to you. I will get back in touch, wish your Mother well.’’ She hung up and Jack was left staring at an empty screen.

He grabbed the incessantly ringing phone, he felt incensed. ‘’Mom what is it? What couldn’t have waited another half hour. I told you about how important this meeting was to me. Shit, Ma, you couldn’t have called later?’’

The voice at the other end of the line was hardly decipherable. ‘’Mom, I can’t hear what you’re saying. Can you talk louder?’’ There was a silence, and Jack’s heart skipped a beat ‘’Mom, Mom what is going on?’’ The line was now silent.

As he started to run out of his Condo, he disconnected from his Mom and called the Oldfields who lived next door to her house. Marshall Oldfield answered immediately. ‘’Good Morning Jack, how are you doing? What can I do for you?’’ In a torrent of words Jack told Marshall that he was on the way over but he had concerns about his Mom. ‘’Don’t worry Jack, I’ll go over and see what’s happening with Mary.’’

The distance between Jack’s Condo and his Mother’s house was normally twenty minutes, he was there in ten and when he pulled up there was an ambulance leaving the driveway. Jack jumped out of his car to find out what was going on but the ambulance whipped by him at full speed. Marshall Oldfield was standing in the shadow of the door.

‘’I tried to call you Jack, but I kept being sent to your voicemail. I’m sorry something was wrong with Mary when I walked in. She was lying on the floor holding the phone and not being responsive. I called 911 and they came pretty fast. They said it looks like she’s had a stroke. I’m really sorry Jack, I would have come in sooner if I’d known she was in trouble.’’

Two thoughts went through Jack’s brain, he should have taken her call right away and he had left his phone by the computer when he rushed out of the Condo.

Marshall told Jack the name of the Hospital that they were taking her to ‘’Emory’’ and Jack hopped back in his car and sped off. The reason they were taking her to Emory was they had an excellent stroke response team. It was all about timing.

Jack cursed the traffic as he drove like Lewis Hamilton down the highway. It was all a blur till he saw the exit for the hospital and pulled off. He flew into the parking lot and was standing at the entrance to emergency in a daze. When he told the receptionist who he was and why he was there, she asked him a million questions. All of them related to Covid-19. He answered honestly, he hadn’t traveled, been near anybody with the virus, had no symptoms, and had been in Home isolation. A nurse came around and pointed a thermometer at his head, and said he was okay. He was taken to a room, where his Mother was attached to a million machines and fluids were oozing through her body. She looked very bad and Jack started to cry. He would never forgive himself if she passed. He should have taken her call right away.

As Jack was sitting in the room a tall long haired Doctor came in. He looked at Jack and shook his head. ‘’Mr. Morganthau, your Mom is currently fighting for her life. We are following normal procedures when we have a stroke victim, but things are not looking good. She has weak vitals. I am sorry. We will keep monitoring her, but the prognosis at this time is not good. You might want to contact the rest of the family and tell them. Due to Covid-19 protocols we can only have one person with her. I’m truly sorry.’’ Jack felt like the air was leaving his lungs. He felt something that no human being should ever experience. It was complete despair. He couldn’t explain it. He looked at his helpless Mom and a feeling of doom inhabited his body.

A nurse came in to the room after the Doctor left and looked at Jack. He was sitting with his head down and he was sobbing. ‘’Sir, we have to do a couple of things for your Mom. Would you mind leaving the room for about five minutes. We will let you back in, but we need you to go now.’’

Jack felt helpless, he slowly stood up and followed a yellow line towards heavy doors. They opened and he walked down the hall aimlessly. Soon he found himself in the middle of the Hospital lobby. There was nothing going on except three people sitting at a table. It felt like the Zombie apocalypse had truly happened. He didn’t know what to do. Jack was lost. His Mother was his best friend and they were beyond close. He couldn’t stop blaming himself for her predicament. He had asked her a million times to let him get somebody to live with her, but she had refused. He had offered to move back home, and she said it wouldn’t work. He had promised his late Dad, that he would keep a close eye on her and he had dropped the ball. He could feel Damocles Sword swinging over his head.

Jack looked up and had a movie moment, something so powerful that it stirred something inside of him. A man wearing a Yarmulke was working with two other guys to erect a twelve foot Menorah in the lobby. It was just about up when Jack walked over. He kept a respectful distance following Covid-19 protocols.

‘’Excuse me, Uh, Are you a Rabbi?’’ The man looked at him and even though he was wearing a mask, Jack was sure he was smiling. ‘’Yes, I’m Rabbi Karlowsk, but to most I’m known as Rabbi K. What brings you to the hospital?’’

Jack poured out his heart. The Rabbi told him he needed Mary’s Hebrew name and her Mother’s Hebrew name. ‘’Miriam is her name, and Elise was her Mom’s name. ‘’Miriam bas Elsie, okay I will say a prayer for her recovery right now and then Tehillim. I will tell the boys here to contact our congregants and we’re going to Storm The Heavens for her.’’ Jack couldn’t express how grateful he was and told Rabbi K, that he wanted to get back to her. The Rabbi nodded. ‘’Here’s my card, Please give me a call and tell me how she’s doing. If you need anything let me know.’’ Jack explained that he had left his phone in his Condo, so he had no way to contact anyone. ‘’Moishe, give Jack your phone. He’ll return it when he doesn’t need it anymore. Nobody should be in a hospital without a phone. Do you want me to stay here with you?’’ Jack thanked him but told him there was only one visitor allowed and he would be okay.

As he walked back to the Emergency and the room his Mom was in, he looked back at the Menorah and the Rabbi and the two guys who had been helping him erect it, and he had another new feeling. He knew it didn’t make sense but he felt like his Mom was going to be okay.

Once back in the room, he looked at his Mother and for some reason told her everything that had happened in the lobby. He looked at Moishe’s phone and there was an app that read Siddur and he opened it. He read his Mom, Psalm 23. He asked Gd for so much and offered so much in return if his Mother could get through her ordeal.

Jack stayed for the rest of the night, and slowly very slowly her vitals got better. The Doctor who came on in the morning seemed more optimistic than the Doctor the night before and at around noon, suggested Jack go home for a couple of hours.

On the way back to his Condo, Jack pulled out the Rabbi’s card, looked at the address and dropped by the Synagogue. He knocked on the door and walked in. The Rabbi came over very quickly ‘’Jack, I prayed for your Mom all night, please tell me she’s still with us.’’ Through his mask, Jack told the Rabbi that the Doctor had sent him home, and she seemed to be turning a corner, but he was still plenty worried.

‘’Every morning I have a service with ten guys, we will keep praying hard for your Mom. I want to meet her. I will check in with you Jack and my offer still stands, if you need anything let me know.’’ It was a reminder for Jack to give the Rabbi, Moishe’s phone back.

‘’Thanks Rabbi, I appreciate everything, I want to get going so I can get home, shower and get back to the hospital.’’ Rabbi K said he understood and told Jack he’d be in touch. He grabbed Jack’s number and waved him goodbye.

Everyday Mary showed signs of progress and after a week she was moved up to a stroke floor where the nurses were encouraging. Strict Covid-19 protocols were in place but Jack was allowed to visit as she was in a Private room.

Since his Mom had taken ill, Jack had not followed up with the people who had been in the Zoom meeting that he had cut short. He hadn’t heard a word from anybody. His Dad had once said to him ‘’Nobody comes to you’’ and those words were echoing in his brain. He just didn’t have the flexibility to work on the listing. His main priority was his Mother. She was moving around and seemed to be slowly getting stronger and that was his focus.

One morning while reading a great book called ‘’The Mail Order Terrorist’’ by Alan Schwarz he heard something. He looked up from the book and his Mother was looking at him. He went close to her and she said ‘’So, why didn’t you take my call? It was one of the happiest moments of his life. Over the next eight weeks she continued to make amazing progress and after arranging for a Therapist to visit her house, she was discharged from the Hospital. Jack moved in to the house till he could find a full time person (Personal Support Worker) who would be with his Mom twenty four hours a day. He had reached out to different agencies and they were actively looking for somebody good.

One of the important things on Jack’s agenda was to get back to business. He called the people who he had invited to join him on the ill-fated zoom stock listing call and the majority made excuses as to why they weren’t ready to get involved. His last call was to Edith Gordon. She was interested in what had happened to his Mom, and was delighted that she was on the road to recovery. When Jack told her she was home, Edith seemed genuinely pleased. ‘’I love my Mom and I regret I didn’t take the call right away, Thanks Edith for being decent. Unfortunately I can’t proceed with the listing because all of the other people who were going to do the financing have backed out. I am back at ground zero.’’ Edith laughed ‘’They’re Shmucks. They wouldn’t know a good thing if it hit them in the face. I was impressed that you have your priorities right, and I’ve read the business plan, and we’ve analyzed the numbers. My company is going to underwrite the listing. We’ll take the whole thing, and when the other funds start calling and saying they want it, please tell them it’s too little and too late. Let’s talk on Monday and we’ll get everything in motion.’’ Jack almost fell over, his dream was coming true. He thanked Edith, and after hanging up he made one more call.

Rabbi K was happy to hear from Jack. When Jack told him that he would never forget how the Rabbi had helped him that night in the hospital, the Rabbi wouldn’t hear about it. ‘’Jack didn’t you tell me you found the prayer app and made prayers and talked directly to Gd. The important thing is to keep your deal and not forget it. I was just around for moral support, it seems to me your Mom needed a lot more than that. Look there is one other thing, I call it the Hanukkah Miracle. Something happens around Hanukkah that’s special. I can’t explain it. We will keep saying prayers for your Mom’s full recovery everyday. Send her our Best, talk again soon, bye.’’

Jack hung up the phone and sat back. It had been a tumultuous time but things had worked out. He said a Thank You to Gd and went back to work. He couldn’t wait till Monday, it wouldn’t be long for his new company to get publicly listed. The only change was the name he would use for the stock listing symbol, he thought Menorah Power had a very nice and significant ring to it.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

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